Welcome to Murder by the Book's blog about what we've read recently. You can find our website at www.mbtb.com.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Eyes of the Innocent, by Brad Parks (hardcover, $24.99)(due 2/1/11)

Eyes of the Innocent gives us interesting characters, some witty dialogue, an intriguing plot, and a look behind the scenes of a troubled metropolitan newspaper -- but then which metropolitan newspaper isn't troubled?

In Newark, New Jersey, a house fire unfortunately has killed two young children. Carter Ross, investigative reporter for The Newark Eagle-Examiner, is assigned the story. He is reluctantly partnered with a bubbly, blonde, squeaky-clean intern, Lauren McMillan (aka "Sweet Thang"). Together they try to unravel why someone would want to torch this middle-class home. Despite a rocky start, sunny, optimistic Sweet Thang takes Akilah Harris, the boys' mother, under her wing. When Akilah steals Sweet Thang's jewelry and disappears, Carter figures that all is not what it seems.

About the same time a city councilman disappears. (As far as this subject seems to be from the arson storyline, you just KNOW that somehow it's related! The fun is watching Brad Parks bring it all together.) Newark is suffering from the ills that plague cities big and small: financial scams, loss of jobs, abandoned homes, tenements under siege. Something is fishy in Newark.

Along with Carter Ross' first-person narrative, an italicized story follows the exploits of a nasty character named Primo. Somehow he is mixed up in everything. Parks tells a great tale that speaks to the problems of the individual and the community. Carter Ross is funny and clever. Sweet Thang is a bubbly surprise. There are editors, relatives, and people on the street who enliven the book. Savor each character's individuality (and, in some cases, nuttiness).

Here are some quotes from the book:

"Szanto [an editor] had this look on his face I couldn't quite place. Just like Eskimos have fifty different words for snow, Szanto has at least that many pained expressions."

"General rule of thumb in journalism: if one of your key sources vanishes suspiciously, you're going to be busier than a paisley top with plaid pants."

Talking about a gay cop: "At work, he's so far in the closet you'd think he survives by eating hangers...."

Can you see why I enjoyed it?

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